|Behind the scenes at RP Library: advisory board airs its problems
A new book by Louise Erdrich or a thriller by Daniel Silva has been published, and you want to read it. You go to the library. They don’t have it on their shelves, but they can get it for you because research shows Guerneville or maybe Sonoma has copies.
So a request is made and books, fiction or technical subjects are in constant crisscrossing of the county filling requests from one library to another.
This is how libraries work.
The shelves of the Rohnert Park-Cotati Public Library are filled with books and DVDs. But if a library-goer wants to read a specific book and doesn’t want to buy a copy at a bookstore up in Santa Rosa or on Amazon, he or she can always order it and get a copy within two weeks or less. Admittedly, sometimes more, depending on the availability (could be Mendocino or Lake counties).
Obtaining requested books from other libraries is an onerous burden on the staff at the local library, and it’s not getting any smaller.
At the July 17 meeting of the Library Advisory Board (LAB), branch manager Nancy Kleban told the board, “It used to be around 400 books on reserve waiting to be picked up. The last time I checked this week it was close to 700.”
The board took note of the enormous amount of paperwork to fill requests, but had no ready answers. The usual one is to raise fees on requests and fine people who don’t pick up their copies.
“Books on hold involves a huge amount of work,” said Barbara Mackenzie. “There’s no public recognition of the work involved. It’s a crushing burden.”
RP City Councilman Amy Ahanotu wondered if “lowering the number of books people order down to five volumes or DVDs would help.”
Kleban told the board plans have been voiced to raise library fines up a nickel to 25 cents a day. She intimated the Sonoma County Library Commission will probably discuss this at their August meeting.
The continuing unpopularity of Monday closures also came up.
“LAB members are ambassadors to the public, and we are aware of a huge number of people who are upset with this,” said John Dell ‘Osso.
Breanna Walsh, teen representative to the board, pointed out the inadequacies of the Young Adult section squeezed between the children’s section and the computers. Ideas were tossed out, but all had their own shortcomings.
The board also discussed an outreach program to get in better touch with people who might not be regular library-goers.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if the county library commission takes up this subject at their August meeting,” said Tim May, a visitor from the Petaluma LAB.
The RP-Cotati Library Advisory Board adjourned after nearly two hours of discussion of problems still facing the library’s basic functions.
No adjustment in fees will be discussed again until their next quarterly meeting in October.
Dell ‘Osso touched on the subject of fundraising, always a job library advisory boards face. “I wonder if a parcel tax measure on the ballot would work,” he said. He praised the work Friends of the Library did with their recent book sale and consistent sales at the bookstore.
This subject and the rising burden with putting requests on hold until picked up (not everyone actually picks up books or DVDs requested). Should they be fined? We’ll have to wait until October.